On the 10th June, BBC Wales unveiled the design and plans for their new broadcasting house. Apart from drama which is based in the specially constructed village Roath Lock in Cardiff Bay, the rest of BBC Wales (online, tv and radio) are based in broadcasting house in Llandaff. The building in Llandaff has been the BBC’s home in Wales for the past 50 years.
All the broadcasters in Wales have made decisions recently about moving their headquarters and buildings to new sites. However, the BBC’s plan has been deemed controversial and the corporation has been accused of a “breach of faith” by some former politicians. Here I will discuss the BBC’s plans in more detail and the pros and cons to their move.
The development of Roath Lock, BBC Wales’ drama village was completed in 2011. It was constructed as a new location for creative industries to thrive. There are production companies already in Cardiff Bay and the Porth Teigr/Roath Lock development is also to house other media developments like Gloworks. Gloworks will be located near the BBC’s drama studios and will provide office space for media companies to use. This suggests that a creative industries quarter could be constructed in Cardiff Bay. A creative quarter would mean that a specific location is associated with that industry and will be recognised for it. It would also be useful for the companies to be within a short distance of each other to share resources and work through alliances. It would allow for the BBC to build on future partnerships, something Director-General Tony Hall praised BBC Wales for in his speech in April.
ITV Wales are moving their headquarters to Cardiff Bay and it was assumed that the BBC would do so too (especially as the drama department have established themselves there already). S4C are not to become part of the Cardiff Bay “Creative Quarter” as they have announced plans to move their headquarters to Carmarthen. Whilst they will not be physically close to the BBC who they work with very closely following the funding via the licence fee agreement, I think it is the best decision for S4C to move to West Wales. As the only Welsh-language broadcaster, S4C should be based in a Welsh-speaking environment and not the mostly anglicised Cardiff. I think it will help them engage with their audience better if they are more associated with the Welsh speaking areas of Wales.
So everyone assumed BBC would move to Cardiff Bay. However, their new plans announced on the 10th show that the BBC are shunning the Bay in favour of a central Cardiff location. They plan to build a modern broadcasting house on the site of the current bus station. The pros to this plan are:
- Good transport links for employees and visitors – it is literally going to be opposite Cardiff Central train station. People can also catch trains to Cardiff Bay for Roath Lock.
- Regeneration of that area – The modern, sleek building (as seen on the slideshow of pictures in this article) will continue the modernisation of Cardiff City Centre which has been developed in recent years such as St David’s 2 Shopping Centre and The Hayes especially. It will also be a form of regeneration near the train station. As nice as the city centre is, the street leading up to the station is a little bit run down.
- It will be noticable – Unlike Roath Lock, which you have to walk for quite a while to even see, the new headquarters will be the first thing commuters from Cardiff Central will see.
- It will be accessible – People will be able to visit BBC Wales and this could improve the relationship between the BBC and its audience.
Not everyone was pleased by this announcement though. Former First Minister for Wales Rhodri Morgan accused BBC Wales of a “breach of faith“. Mr Morgan believes that the construction of Roath Lock was a signal that the BBC were investing in the Cardiff Bay area and that the BBC would be committed to moving the rest of their broadcasting to the Bay in future years. The Welsh Government had invested £10 million into improving the roads and road network in Cardiff Bay for the BBC to access Roath Lock. It was understood that this improved road network would allow the BBC to fully relocate to the Bay.
Rhodri Morgan has been quoted by the BBC as saying:
Since we agreed that we would put the £10m in in order to create a Welsh media city – not just a drama village, there’s been a breach of faith here.
This shows again that a creative quarter for Welsh media companies was forming in Cardiff Bay with the help of the Welsh government. It also suggests that the BBC were originally going to move there. I have to agree with Mr Morgan here. Although there are pros to BBC Wales moving to Central Square, for the industry as a whole I believe it would have been better for them to move to Cardiff Bay. This new move seems to abandon the drama village, the current developments and the formation of a creative sector in the Bay. I think it would be better for the BBC’s departments to feel more connected and united rather than drama (the most successful department in Wales) in one area and all other broadcasting/online content to be based in another.
Also I don’t know whether by being in such a central location and in such a transparent, modern building, the BBC are trying too hard to connect with their audience. I’m all for audience involvement – I believe television producers should listen to audiences and know their audiences fully in order to make programming. However, I feel like this plan and design by BBC Wales is a bit too obvious, a bit too OTT. I had a similar feeling when the BBC moved to new broadcasting house in London. It was particularly clear in the way that the newsroom has been constructed (and subsequently how the regions follow in style). In the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, the transparency of the newsroom and the camera swooping over workstations to the presenter’s desk/weather screen felt too much like the BBC were trying to show that they had nothing to hide and that the audience could be involved. Although the sentiment was there, the transparency and openness to audiences felt fake and I’m worried that BBC Wales may run into similar issues regarding audiences vs accessibility.